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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Kenyan hero chooses captivity
Kenyan UN personnel in Sierra Leone
Four Kenyans are among the more than 250 remaining hostages
A Kenyan brigadier who was taken hostage by Sierra Leonean rebels, has chosen to remain in rebel captivity until all his fellow hostages are released.

He has decided to stay ... I'm very proud of him

Lt-Gen Opande of Kenya

Rebels of Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were willing to release Brigadier James Mulinge together with other recently released hostages but he chose to stay in order to help improve the conditions of his colleagues.

News of the selfless officer's remarkable decision was made public by Kenya's Vice-Chief of General Staff, Lt-Gen Daniel Opande, who visited UN troops in north-west Sierra Leone last weekend.

"He has decided to stay until the last of the UN troops are released," Lt-Gen Opande told reporters in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

"He is a free man, he is able to move freely. I'm very proud of him," he added.

Wounded hostages

More than 200 UN peacekeeping personnel remain in rebel hands and some are reported to be unwell.

We just ate one banana a day

Freed Kenyan UN soldier Silas Gitahi

"Those with broken limbs are our biggest worry, and those with gunshot wounds could not be too good," General Opande said.

Ten Kenyans were among the 54 UN peacekeepers released by the RUF rebels on Sunday and returned to the capital Freetown via neighbouring Liberia.

Three of the Kenyans were injured and one was suffering from malaria, he said.

One of the released Kenyans, Private Silas Gitahi, spoke about the harsh conditions in captivity.

Foday Sankoh
The captured rebel leader has reportedly apologised to Kenyans
"Very bad conditions. We just ate one banana a day," he said.

"They kept us in a house with a guard always," explained Private Gitahi who was captured on 3 May.

About 130 Kenyans were serving with the UN force in Sierra Leone.

About 30 were captured by rebels, most of whom have now been released.

Three are still missing, and one is confirmed dead.

Sankoh's apology

General Opande and Kenya's Defence Minister Julius Sunkuli were in the Liberian capital on Sunday where they met President Charles Taylor, the man widely believed to have close links with and some significant influence over the RUF rebels.

The Kenyan delegation, which includes members of parliament, asked Mr Taylor for his continued help in freeing the UN hostages.

In the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, the delegation was reported to have met the captured RUF leader Foday Sankoh in a secret location.

Kenyan media later reported that Sankoh apologised for the capture of the Kenyan peacekeepers by his fighters.

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See also:

23 May 00 | Africa
Peacekeepers feared killed
20 May 00 | Africa
UN to boost Sierra Leone force
11 May 00 | Africa
UN troops hit by friendly fire
04 May 00 | Africa
Renewed bid to free UN troops
19 May 00 | Africa
Rebels accuse Britain
12 May 00 | Africa
Foday Sankoh: Rebel leader
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